Mid-Sussex Modality Partnership

Advanced Telephony


Difficulties in getting through to primary care services via telephone are a widely reported problem across the country. The NHS England South East Region Primary Care Transformation Team commissioned Redmoor Health to support Primary Care Networks (PCNs) and GP practices in their region to optimise the use of their chosen telephony systems, for the benefit of the regional patient population. The PCNs and GP practices were all at different stages in their journey, with some having had products in place for a long time, compared to others who were only just getting set up.

Modality Partnership is a national super partnership operating across England, including the Mid-Sussex Modality Partnership, which is a merged GP practice operating across 4 sites in mid-Sussex (two in East Grinstead, one in Burgess Hill and another in Crawley Down), covering 31,700 patients.


The sites were facing all the typical challenges faced in primary care concerning telephone access, such as answering at scale and with consistency across their sites, to ensure quality of care and efficiency in directing patients quickly to the correct departments before calls were abandoned or patients potentially gave up on trying to access the service, or went to another
NHS service such as A&E.

They did adopt a cloud telephony system but when it was first introduced, it was very much in the silos of the individual practices, which meant there was no joining up behind the scenes. This created issues, as there needed to be resilience across the sites and management needed oversight so they could see how many calls were being answered, how many patients were waiting and how long they were waiting for. This alignment was so important when operating as a single GP practice. There was some criticism on local social media sites because of the length of time patients were waiting on the telephone sometimes and as many staff lived locally, they were very upset by the negative feedback.


It was clear that data would be key to understanding how their systems could be improved and so Redmoor Health was asked to help the GP practices understand how they could interrogate and use their data to make relevant changes and improve their processes such as call flows, call queuing and callbacks to support access and demand. This was done in a way that allowed them to align their processes so that all patients have the same experience when accessing primary care. Redmoor Health’s programme management and coordination included:

  • Development and delivery of webinars
  • 1:1 sessions with the PCNs and GP practices
  • Training sessions on understanding data, and process mapping
  • ‘Cheat sheets’ for staff to assist with best use of telephone systems
  • Reviewed telephone data and call flows


As a result of this work, the GP practices were able to start looking at their systems and processes for minimising missed calls, call options, call queueing, reducing calls through the promotion of other options such as online booking and the NHS App, and more.

By reviewing inbound call patterns, call length and services required, and having ways the system can let them know when more manpower is required, they have been able to create relevant solutions. These have included changing how they recruit and train staff, looking at how they front load their team during different periods and how they create resilience for staff holidays and sickness, and training other staff members so that they can draft them in to assist with answering calls during peak times. Where training opportunities for the call handling team would be beneficial, they have been able to identify this and offer training; systems are now in place to let other staff know when they are needed to help out the call handling team, and times when call handling staff are needed most have been identified.

They have also made technical changes such as adding different call options and different hold messaging to let people know of the other ways they can get in touch such as online, or times of the day that they can call when average call waiting times are less; all of which have contributed to processing calls more quickly.

Looking to the future, the practice is already thinking about adding further options to their telephony system and training their staff to make the most out of it. Thanks to being able to read into their data, they realised that a significant percentage of their callers were calling just to check their appointment time, so now the practice is looking at introducing an Appointment ‘Call and Check’ option, where a patient will be able to call and select an automated option where they can check their appointment time if they have forgotten it. Other plans include using the system to better triage patients, with the aim to send patients directly to the appropriate healthcare professional the first time; for example, sending a patient straight to a physiotherapy self-referral service, rather than having to see the GP in person first.


So far, the impact of this work has been considerable, both for patients and staff. Total calls have reduced by 21% as more patients are now able to access the service in other ways, and the number of calls answered has increased by 13.5. Call waiting times, which were an issue for patients, have reduced by half and remained consistent at the lower time. As a result, staff confidence and morale have also improved.

Lois Brown from the Modality Partnership said: “It has been great being able to tell staff over the past few months what an amazing job they are doing. The length of time calls are waiting is down and it wasn’t because staff didn’t want to provide excellent services, the system wasn’t set up to help them do it.

It has been a great boost for staff and is pushing them to get even better. It is a good feeling knowing you are doing a good job.”

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